Urban myths and the hidden data in the KC Breed Records Supplement

The Breed Council’s Annual Health Report shows the changes in registrations of Dachshunds over the past 15 years and the most spectacular change has been the rise in popularity of Mini Smooths. Their numbers have gone from an average of 1000 a year to nearly 3000 over that period. At the same time, registrations of Mini Longs have declined from around 1400 to less than 800 in 2013. The worry is that, with their increased popularity, Mini Smooths are becoming a “commercial breed” and will be bred indiscriminately by people who care little for the breed or its welfare.

I thought it would be interesting to analyse the registration data published in the KC’s Breed Records Supplements to see if it’s possible to find out who is breeding all these puppies. I also wanted to test the “urban myth” that it’s members of the KC’s Assured Breeder Scheme that are “churning them out” under the badge of the ABS.

However, because it’s such a laborious exercise, I’ve only looked at the last two Quarters of registrations, for Mini Smooth and Mini Longs.

Mini Smooths:
In 2014 Quarter 1, 88% of non-ABS breeders registered only 1 litter and 12% registered 2 or 3 litters. In the same period 94% of ABS breeders registered only 1 litter and 6% registered 2 litters.

In 2013 Quarter 4, 91% of non-ABS breeders registered only 1 litter and 9% registered 2 or 3 litters. In the same period 73% of ABS breeders registered only 1 litter and 27% registered 2 or 3 litters.

Combining the data over the two quarters, 90% of non-ABS breeders registered only 1 litter, while 81% of ABS members registered only 1 litter. For those of you who are statistics geeks (anyone out there?) these differences are not statistically significant at the 95% Confidence Level.

In other words, on the basis of 6 months’ data, it is an urban myth that ABS breeders of Mini Smooths are in the scheme so that they can churn out high volumes of puppies.

Mini Longs:
In 2014 Quarter 1, 91% of non-ABS breeders registered only 1 litter and 9% registered 2 litters. In the same period 88% of ABS breeders registered only 1 litter and 12% registered 2 litters.

In 2013 Quarter 4, 90% of non-ABS breeders registered only 1 litter and 10% registered 2 litters. In the same period 71% of ABS breeders registered only 1 litter and 29% registered 2 or 3 litters.

Combining the data over the two quarters, 90% of non-ABS breeders registered only 1 litter, while 77% of ABS members registered only 1 litter. Perhaps surprisingly, these differences are statistically significant at the 95% Confidence Level; i.e. there are proportionally more ABS members breeding 2 or more litters per Quarter than non-ABS members. This is possibly more surprising because the popularity of MLs has declined so much and in stark contrast to the rise of the MSs.

What’s hidden in the data?

While the data on litters being bred by ABS and non-ABS members may be interesting, it’s quite difficult to pull out information on who are the high-volume breeders. Two Quarters of records isn’t really enough to draw conclusions; you’d probably need to look at data over the past 2-3 years to find the recurring high-volume names.

The other thing that makes it tricky to identify high-volume breeders is that there are some litters registered by people with the same surname who may, or may not, in reality be all the same breeder. It’s not possible to tell if litters registered to “Mr X”, “Mr & Mrs X” and “Miss X” were all bred at the same address.

It gets even more difficult when you realise that some breeders have more than one variety of Dachshund. Two litters of one variety in any given quarter is quite different to two litters in two or more varieties and that’s not easy to get at from the Breed Records Supplement.

I’ve also not analysed the numbers of puppies being registered in litters in any detail. Mini Smooths and Mini Longs averaged 3 puppies per litter (Q1 2014), so there are some surprisingly large litters of 7 and 8 puppies.

Does it matter?

I’d love to see the KC produce and publish some of this additional level of analysis so that puppy buyers might be able to make more informed decisions. In the absence of good data, we’re only left with urban myths and unproven assumptions about who is churning out puppies and whether or not breeders are reputable.

It would be great to see a simple addition to the Breed Records data: record the total number of litters registered (of any breed) over a rolling 12 month period, by each breeder’s name.

It’s also a good argument for breeders being able to demonstrate that they meet minimum welfare standards for the way they keep their dogs and breed their litters.  Currently, the KC’s Assured Breeder Scheme is the only UKAS accredited welfare standard.  Local Authority Licensing Inspections can hardly be held up to be credible while we continue to see reports of atrocious puppy farms.

At the moment, it must be really difficult for potential puppy buyers to know how “reputable” a breeder is. There is still a backlog of uninspected ABS members, but hopefully not any high-volume ones.

I think the KC would argue that membership of the ABS is the only certain way to identify breeders who meet acceptable welfare standards. That’s true if, and only if, those ABS members have passed an inspection.

Advice to puppy buyers continues to be “do your research” and “get word of mouth recommendations”.

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